Dear Miss Behavior: My 14 month old pound puppy digs holes all over the back yard, finds my tulips bulbs & plays with them. I’m afraid I won’t have any pretty blooms come spring. What can I do?
Oh, NO! Tulip bulbs are poisonous to dogs, so this isn’t just a gardening problem.
Dogs may dig for several reasons: to get cooler if they’re too hot, for exercise, to find an interesting animal or smell. I’m guessing the main reason Digby is digging is he’s bored in the back yard. Dogs that are bored can get into all sorts of trouble. From nuisance barking to learning to escape, the backyard is a minefield for dogs all alone.
If you have to leave him outside, make sure he’s had mental and physical exercise. Let Digby hunt for his food; it’s not only fun, but tires him out. (If you use lawn chemicals, don’t try this!). Take his food outside and scatter it in the grass. Point out a piece or two and his instincts will take over. Also, give him toys for entertainment. Kongs stuffed with treats or his dog food and some peanut butter, a Nylabone, or one of the other interactive toys on the market are fun for most dogs.
Some ideas won’t work. For example, stuffing his nose in the hole and yelling at him. He doesn’t remember digging it and he’ll think you’ve lost it for no reason. The same goes for filling the hole with water and dunking his head. You’re just frightening him and not teaching him a thing. Filling the holes with water or spraying him with water, might even encourage him to dig more, if he’s a water-loving dog.
If you catch him digging, say no and remove him from the hole, encourage him to play with one of his toys. My other suggestion is to put up a fence either around the flowers or over the flowers to keep him from digging them up.Using a chicken wire, lay it horizontally over the freshly planted bulbs, stake it down with a couple of tent stakes. When he goes to dig, he’ll hit the fencing. It won’t be nearly as rewarding as before.
Thanks to this feature goes to Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, who ran the Miss Behavior Dog Advice Column in their newsletter. Appreciation also is extended to Marcy Graybill, a trainer at GLOC and the expert behind this column. She also hosts her own blog, Dog Log, where she talks about training adventures with her dogs.